Chick-fil-A IPO

Why a Chick-fil-A Stock IPO Will Never Happen

Disclaimer: Lean Investments is a financial education and entertainment website. None of the content below should be misconstrued as investment advice or a recommendation. The author holds none of the positions mentioned below.

Quick summary: Chick-fil-A is not a publicly traded company and therefore there is no Chick-fil-A stock ticker to search for on Robinhood. Despite the huge issuance of new stocks through SPAC mergers in recent times, Chick-fil-A will almost certainly not be joining them with IPO plans anytime in the near or even distant future.

Chick-fil-A is one of the most popular fast food brands in the United States and only seems to have been strengthened during an otherwise challenging couple of years for restaurants. It’s only natural that as a happy customer and one that notices the company’s seemingly strong financial position, you may be interested in investing in the company.

Unfortunately for potential stock market investors, Chick-fil-A is a privately held company and therefore does not trade on the stock market. This means there is no Chick-fil-A stock symbol or stock ticker to look for on Robinhood or any other broker.

If you are holding out hope that there will eventually be Chick-fil-A IPO, we will explain in this article why those hopes are most likely in vain, even as many traditionally privately held brands have or have considered going public in recent years, due in large part to the advent of SPAC-mergers.

Why There is No Chick-fil-A Stock

Like many large private companies that have chosen to remain private, including the company that runs Trader Joe’s, Chick-fil-A is a family run business that prefers not to have to deal with outside pressure from investors or even run the risk that they could lose control of the company down the road.

To understand why Chick-fil-A remains in private hands and is not publicly traded you have to understand some of the company’s unique values and way of doing business. These include:

  • Christian values at the forefront – Chick-fil-A’s corporate culture is deeply rooted in Southern Baptist values. In fact, the company’s mission statement reads as follows: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” The company is closed on Sundays, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite the fact they likely give up a lot of revenue as a result of this decision. While being a Christian-oriented company is not an impediment to being a successful publicly-traded company, issues such as opposing same-sex marriage (which the company has voiced in the past) would make it a prime target for activist investor attention. It’s also clear that the company’s late founder S. Truett Cathy had concerns about the company’s ability to go public and remain true to its mission statement.
  • Family run business – As mentioned, Chick-fil-A is at heart a family run business that has been passed down to heirs, with likely plans in place to continue to pass ownership down through the generations. It’s clear that it is important to the Cathy family for the company to remain in the family’s full control and never risk a situation where outside investors could potentially wrest control of the company. The current operators of Chick-fil-A are each worth about $7.1 billion in net worth respectively and the family is just outside the top 20 richest families in America according to Forbes.
  • Franchise model – Like many quick-serve restaurant chains, including Krispy Kreme, Chick-fil-A runs its business as a franchise model. However, Chick-fil-A’s model is somewhat different compared to many other franchised operations and limits restaurant locations within a certain geographic location. This is why you don’t see as many Chick-fil-A locations in your area as you do say Starbucks or McDonalds. It’s likely that the company’s ownership would prefer to stick to this model that has worked so well, whereas if it were a public company, it would likely face eventual investor pressure to saturate markets with more locations. This is just one example of the type of conflict with outside investors that Chick-fil-A’s current owners would want to avoid.
  • Current success – Finally, it’s important to point out that the business is extremely successful. Most estimates suggest it is the third most profitable quick-serve restaurant chain behind Starbucks and McDonalds this year. The company, which generated more than $11 billion in revenue in 2019 according to Business Insider, does not need outside investor money to execute its strategy and it’s unclear what benefits going public would bring to Chick-fil-A, while risks are plentiful. Why mess with success?

Why You Won’t See a Chick-fil-A Stock IPO in the Future

To understand why Chick-fil-A will likely never have a stock IPO and always remain a private company, it’s important to understand why a company typically has an IPO. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Providing liquidity to founders and early investors;
  • Raising capital from the sale of its shares;
  • Providing an easier pathway for raising capital in the future.

Based on what we know of the family who runs the company, none of the above seem like major concerns to them and these benefits certainly don’t outweigh the drawbacks of having the company open to the regular scrutiny of quarterly earnings reports or expectations of meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics that are increasingly important to Wall Street.

The most important reason why an IPO is not in the cards for Chick-fil-A is that the family heirs who inherited the company in 2014 promised not to take the company public as a condition of their inheritance, according to the LA Times. The current CEO and chairman of the company is Dan Cathy, an heir to founder S. Truett Cathy.

There is always a small possibility that conditions within the company change drastically over the years and the family’s thinking on the attractiveness of going public changes. However, based on our research, we think it is an extremely unlikely situation considering the company’s current positive prospects.

Alternatives to Buying Chick-fil-A Stock

While you can’t buy Chick-fil-A stock, there is no shortage of other quick-serve restaurant stocks ranging from Starbucks, McDonalds, Restaurant Brands International (Burger King parent company), Yum! Brands and Shake Shack that you can investigate. If you like the sector in general, you could also consider an ETF such as AdvisorShares Restaurant ETF (EATZ), which holds many of these companies in a diversified manner.

Finally, if you truly believe in the success of Chick-fil-A you could consider becoming a franchisee of the company. This has its own risks and rewards that we are not qualified to address but suggest you visit this Entrepreneur article as a starting point to learn more.

Above you have the reasons why aChick-fil-A IPO is likely to remain a pipe dream for hungry investors.